Monday mornings are often associated with blue moods yet one week, almost a year ago, started off rather differently. Dhan Singh, a young chef we known for a while, called excitedly about an old home up for lease in the Naikana village, close to Almora, in the Kumaon hills of Uttarakhand. Given our love and longing for mountains, we had always dreamed of creating something far from the city’s clamour – something that was not just another homestay, or a resort or a lodge, but a combination of all of this and something more locally-inspired and immersive. This seemed the perfect opportunity.
We roped in two other friends, with years of experience in travel operations, hospitality and marketing and formed Mountways. Together, we pooled in resources and started work on our first project, KotNaikana – literally, the house in Naikana.
KotNaikana, a boutique homestay, perched 1940 metres above sea level, overlooks lush valleys and villages that lie in the shadow of Mt Nanda Devi. With locally sourced construction materials, architecture that draws heavily from old village structures, and the building and running of the property by locals, KotNaikana prides itself on being an integral part of the local community.
The biggest challenge for local communities across hills and specially Uttarakhand is migration. It has been seventeen years since the state of Uttarakhand was formed, yet the lack of economic opportunities forces the youth to move to bigger, busier cities. KotNaikana, in its humble way, hopes to provide an economic opportunity to slow down the rate of migration, and with any luck, reverse the trend.
In the coming years, Mountways plans to create more boutique stays and also develop offbeat activities & experiences across the Himalayan region. We hope to collaborate with regional grassroot level organizations and other like-minded individuals, to ensure the rich heritage and identity is preserved and cherished.